Trees, Sky, Clouds

July 2021 Update

posted in: Personal Essay, Photography, Reading | 0

July was a pretty quiet month. That was mostly due to the weather, plenty of hot days and plenty of thunderstorms. The increase in Covid cases the second half of the month didn’t directly affect our activities, but it did start undermining the enthusiasm we developed during late May and June.

On June 19th, the 7 day moving average for cases was down to 11,472. By July 31 it was 77,051 which is about what it was back on February 16 (78,414). It’s definitely frustrating that this increase is largely due to people willfully not getting vaccinated. Philadelphia has gone back to recommending that everyone wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Holly and I have still been wearing masks indoors so in a practical sense nothing has changed for us, but it’s a definitive sign that things have taken a step backwards.

We’re supposed to return to campus later in August, but we’ll have to see if the increase in cases is going to change anything.

However, the entire month wasn’t so gloomy.

We returned to my brother’s for a 4th of July cookout. Holly and I brought up some seafood from our local farmer’s market and my brother provided some shrimp and vegetables.

We also ventured out to dinner a few times. We tried a new place, Sally, which specializes in pizza and natural wines, and went to a couple familiar places, Tio Flores, and L’Anima, which we had already been to after we had gotten vaccinated. Although we have enjoyed it in the past, it has become a top favorite, not only for the food but also for their nice outdoor patio. We’re still avoiding eating indoors, and I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon.

I took all the above photos with my Samsung Galaxy S9+.


With the weather getting hotter, we haven’t been out for as many walks therefore I haven’t been taking as many pictures.

I already posted about some of my recent outings:

I also posted my Favorite Photos from the 1st Half of 2021.

I did just get 2 rolls developed which I hope to post about soon.

A friend of mine has mentioned liking Skillshare videos on a number of occasions. Since I like her work, I signed up for a free trial. I’ve saved a few drawing tutorials which I haven’t gotten into yet, but I did watch a photography tutorial all the way through, Still Life Photography: Capturing Stories of Everyday Objects at Home. I enjoyed the tutorial and picked up some good insights. However, we have a small apartment, and I’m not sure we really have the space for me to set-up still life arrangements. It might be difficult to put something together and not have other stuff in the background. My best luck with still life photography has been with my light box.


Short Stories

Until the month ended and I looked back to start writing this post, I hadn’t realized how many short stories I read during July: 22!

I finished reading The Best American Short Stories 2020. The overall quality of the stories was impressive. The few other years I have read from this anthology series were hit or miss. The 2020 collection was solid from start to finish.

These are the stories I read from it in July:

I also continued reading classic stories from The Story and Its Writer:

And I liked the following stories from the July issues of The New Yorker:

Quite a month!

Short Stories Read in 2021

So far in 2021, I’ve read 50 stories.

  • The Rivals, Andrea Lee
  • A Challenge You Have Overcome, Allegra Goodman
  • The Wind, Lauren Groff 
  • Casting Shadows, Jhumpa Lahiri 
  • Good-Looking, Souvankham Thammavongsa 
  • The Case For and Against Love Potions, Imbolo Mbue 
  • Future Selves, Ayşegül Savaş 
  • The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The Open Boat, Stephen Crane
  • Paul’s Case, Willa Cather
  • Hands, Sherwood Anderson
  • Araby, James Joyce
  • The Dead, James Joyce
  • God Mother Tea, Selena Anderson
  • The Apartment, T.C. Boyle
  • A Faithful But Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Lately Committed, Jason Brown
  • Sibling Rivalry, Michael Byers
  • The Nanny, Emma Cline
  • Balloons, Thomas McGuane
  • Children of the Good Book, J.M. Holmes
  • A,S,D,F, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
  • Before the Valley, Rachel Heng
  • Foster, Bryan Washington
  • The Coast of New Zealand, Cynthia Ozick
  • The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
  • A Hunger Artist, Franz Kafka
  • Offside Constantly, Camille Bordas
  • In the Event, Meng Jin
  • Liberté, Scott Nadelson
  • Howl Palace, Leigh Newman
  • The Nine-Tail Fox Explains, Jane Pek
  • The Heads of Dirty Children, Alejandro Puyana
  • Octopus VII, Anna Reeser
  • Enlightenment, William Pei Shih
  • Kennedy, Kevin Wilson
  • The Special World, Tiphanie Yaniquq
  • My Apology, Sam Lypsyte
  • Unread Messages, Sally Rooney
  • Satellites, Rebecca Curtis
  • The Theresa Job, Colson Whitehead
  • Coda, Tessa Hadley
  • The Rocking Horse Winner, D.H. Lawrence
  • Miss Brill, Katherine Mansfield
  • The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, Katherine Anne Porter
  • Sweat, Zora Neale Hurston
  • A Rose for Emily, William Faulkner
  • That Evening Sun, William Faulkner
  • The Circular Ruins, Jorge Luis Borges
  • Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway


In addition to finishing The Best American Short Stories 2020, I finished 4 other books.

I continued my exploration of Ernest Hemingway by reading 2 of his books I never read before: A Moveable Feast and The Old Man and the Sea. I wasn’t particularly fond of A Moveable Feast. It wasn’t bad but I didn’t find most of it all that interesting with the exception of the selections about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

I was a little surprise by how much I enjoyed The Old Man and the Sea. I was skeptical mainly because I’m not interested in boats or fishing. But I found the main character fascinating. I guess I was sold on The Old Man if not so much on The Sea.

Seek You, by Kristen Radke, was one of the most fascinating non-fiction books I’ve read in a while. Part memoir and part research-based, Seek You is a graphic novel that explores loneliness.

I also re-read Inherent Vice for my Thomas Pynchon re-read. I believe this was the 4th time I read it. It’s his take on a noir tale. Reminds me in some ways of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. Like many noir stories, it’s quite convoluted and doesn’t quite all add up, but it’s a fun ride.

I decided to re-watch Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2014 film version which I’m not sure I’ve seen since seeing it in the theater. I remember being a little disappointed by it at the time and was disappointed by it this time around as well, which was a little surprising since I really like most of his other movies.

A lot of it is very faithful to the book but Joaquin Phoenix’s Doc Sportello is darker and more mean-spirited than in the book. The key relationship between Sportello and Bigfood Bjornsen (played by Josh Brolin) doesn’t quite work in the movie. The one stroke of genius is having a minor character, Sortilège (played by Joanna Newsom) narrate.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who made the connection between The Long Goodbye and Inherent Vice. Although the below video is about the relationship between The Long Goodbye and the film version of Inherent Vice, it does point to some similarities between Altman’s film and the book.

July 2021 Reading Update
July 2021 Reading Update

Books Read in 2021

So far in 2021, I have read 29 books:

This Creative Midlife Posts in 2021

Disclaimers: Comments are moderated. Some links, such as those to Amazon, are affiliate links, through which, I may gain a small commission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *